Triage is the evaluation and categorization of the wounded or sick when there aren’t enough medical resources available for those seeking it. You would be most familiar with the triage system in a hospital’s emergency department, where a triage nurse decides on who needs the most urgent care.
In the aftermath of a crisis it is both common and expected that our resources will become overwhelmed. This is named a ‘mass casualty’ event and can cover situations like a terrorist attack or a natural disaster where large volumes of people are injured all at once, and so hospitals and clinics are be unable to handle the influx of victims. The same would happen during an outbreak of infectious diseases like a bad Influenza, Ebola or other such quickly spreading sickness. Often during a mass casualty event, hospitals will send personnel like doctors and nurses to the scene to assist in the stabilisation and transport of the wounded or sick.
Having a triage system in place at the scene of a disaster allows first responders to react quickly. During the chaos of a crisis, the simple color coded triage system creates a sense of order and organisation which allows professionals to decide who is in most urgent need for transportation to a hospital, such as severe burns and bleeding versus those whose injuries mean they can survive a longer wait, like a broken bone.
Similar triage would be used during an outbreak of disease, where a system is put in place to rank those in order of urgency.
During a situation that requires a triage system, a color coding system is easy and effective to implement. This triage tape allows your team to quickly establish the different triage zones to direct patients into.
The triage tape allows for the advanced triage system involving red, yellow, green, and black tags:
Red area (Immediate) - This is for those who have can survive but not without immediate treatment.
Yellow area (Delayed) – This is for people who aren’t in immediate danger of death. They require close observation in case they progress into the red stage. In other words, they are currently stable but still need hospital care and would be treated immediately under regular circumstances.
Green area (Minor) - This area is for the walking wounded. People who still require some medical treatment but can wait for the critical injuries to be treated first. These people are able to move themselves into the designated areas and in some cases, assist in the mobilisation of people more severely injured than themselves. During in a mass casualty situation, this will be the largest group of people.
Blue area (Morgue) - This is for those who are already deceased and those who injuries are so severe that they cannot survive despite medical intervention.